10 Things You Didn’t Know About the First Latin Pope

History was made as the new pope was named – and he is Latino! Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, 76, became the new pope who will lead 1.2 billion Catholics. Pope Francis (as he’s now named) is the first Latin American to be named as such. But what do you really know about him? Here are ten things you definitely need to know.

1. Pope Francis I 1

He’s Not Only the First Latin Pope…

He’s the first from the Americas and the first Jesuit to be named as Pope. Jesuits are the largest Catholic order and one that emphasizes humility, education and social justice. In the 1960s, Pope Francis taught literature and psychology before turning to theological studies and becoming a priest. He then returned to teach at Jesuit schools and stayed close to the local Catholic university in San Miguel even when he became an auxiliary bishop in the 1990s. 


2. Pope Francis I 2

His Election Was a Surprise to Many

When the Argentine cardinal was announced as the cardinals’ choice, many were shocked. “I didn’t expect it,” press spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters. In fact, many thought Milan’s Cardinal Angelo Scola would be named as the new pope. 


3. Pope Francis I 3

He Has No Numerals

Many recent pontiffs have taken similar names, which led to Roman numerals after their name to distinguish each. But Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio is the first to take the name Francis, and thus is the first “Pope Francis.” He honors St. Francis of Assisi, who was a servant to the poor and lived in rags among beggars at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. 


4. Pope Francis I 4

He Lives a Very Humble Life

Jesuit priests take a vow of poverty, and it was a vow that the Cardinal took seriously. In Buenos Aires, “Father Jorge,” (now Pope Francis) chose to forgo the archbishop’s palace and chauffeured limo to live in a small apartment on his own, take public transportation, and cook his own meals.  After he was named pope, he refused the official papal car in favor of the bus.


5. Pope Francis I 5

He Broke Tradition – A Few Times

In his first public appearance and act, Pope Francis broke tradition by asking those in St. Peter’s Square – about 150,000 people – to pray for him. Traditionally, the new pope blesses the crowd first. He continued to be a “rebel,” by refusing to elevate himself with the use of a platform before speaking, so that he would not be higher than the cardinals.

"He said I'll stay down here," Cardinal Timothy Dolan told CNN. Cardinal Dolan is the archbishop of New York and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "He met each of us on our own level."


6. Pope Francis I 10

He’s the son of Italian Immigrants

Pope Francis was one of five children born to Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires. Mario Jose Bergoglio worked as a railway worker and Regina Maria Sivori stayed at home and raised the children.


7. Pope Francis I 6

He’s Strongly Against Gay Marriage

Pope Francis has described same-sex marriage as the work of the devil and a “destructive attack on God’s plan.” Even as Argentina is a country where same-sex marriage is legal (the first Latin American country with marriage equality), the pope is not in favor – and in fact, lobbied vocal and strong opposition to a bill proposed by President Cristina Fernandez when acting as cardinal. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said his remarks suggest “medieval times and the Inquisition.” 


8. Pope Francis I 7

Not Surprisingly, He’s Also Against Gay Adoption

Pope Francis has referred to adoption of a child by gay parents as a form of “discrimination against children.” 


9. Pope Francis I 8

He’s Also Strongly Against Contraceptives & Abortion

He’s clashed with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner not only on gay rights, but on the free distribution of contraceptives. He was very vocal against a 2006 bill that would legalize abortion under certain circumstances. 


10. Pope Francis I 9

He Has Some PR Problems

His time in Argentina as a priest coincided with the “Dirty War,” with some saying that the church didn’t do enough to confront the military dictatorship. Around 30,000 people died or disappeared during the seven-year period that began with a coup in 1976. In fact, Pope Francis has been accused of complying with the Argentine government in a 1976 kidnapping of two liberal Jesuit priests during the Dirty War. Pope Francis denies the charges, many saying that it is in fact a “salacious” lie.